Every time we facilitate or manage an off-site meeting or event, we bring a lot with us.
Our vehicles are usually packed with necessities like centerpieces, easels, easel pads, signage, folders, programs, our documents . . . you name it.
Arguably, one of the most valuable items we haul is our trusty Husky toolbox.
It took us a while to realize we needed a container where we could prepack all the small office supplies one needs or might need when away from their office. We had been making do by grabbing a scissors from a desk and Post-it notes from the supply cabinet. But then we’d forget to return the scissors to the right person, and Linda wondered where her stapler was. And don’t even get us started on how much time it took to pack those items. Every. Single. Time.
If you regularly hold events away from the office, you never know when you might need a scissors or an extra roll of tape. Yes, course, you could ask someone at the conference center if you could borrow theirs. Or you could make a last-minute run to a store. But it’s less time-consuming and less stressful if you know exactly where yours is. Plus it builds credibility when someone says, “I need a Sharpie,” and you can practically hand them one before they finish the sentence.
So, up your game and bring your own supplies. You’ll be the hero.
You can pack office supplies in any container. We use an actual toolbox because it has a comfortable, heavy duty handle for carrying. It also closes with latches so that small items don’t fall out during transport. But a clear storage tub of any size would work.
Use smaller clear storage containers within the tool box (or larger tub) to keep things organized and easy to find. If you own a label maker (because really, who doesn’t?!), be sure to label each storage container so you can easily identify items and see those that need to be restocked.
While you could use opaque storage containers, clear ones make it much easier to see what is inside without opening each container. Time saver!
What you include in your toolbox depends on where the event or meeting is held. For example, you may add sunscreen and bug spray to the kit if you’re hosting an outdoor event.
But here’s a list of some standard supplies that can be prepacked and ready to go without too much preparation:
We love having these supplies ready to go at a moment’s notice. A quick review before an off-site event and we’re prepared for the unexpected. Our biggest challenge is remembering to restock items after every use.
Happy supply packing!
A new year – and possibly a new decade?! – will be here before we know it.
As we celebrate Christmas and New Year's with our family and friends, we also will spend some time reflecting on all that happened in 2019 and all we dream of for 2020.
No year is perfect. Frustrations and disappointments often walk hand-in-hand with beauty and exhilaration. Tears and laughter become close neighbors.
And yet, each new year stretches with the promise of possibility. Below are some of the possibilities we discovered in 2019. May you find your own in 2020.
Every company gets to the point where it needs to hire an outside vendor or consultant.
Maybe you’ve hired someone to assist with marketing materials or accounting needs. Maybe you’ve contracted with someone to help you determine future staffing opportunities or to complete a one-off project.
At Reach Partners, we often step in when a business’s internal team is too busy to complete a job or an organization needs our expertise in planning and problem-solving.
We’ve been asked to determine the best way to move 18,000 people from numerous parking lots to an event site in less than three hours. Our clients have hired us to launch a seminar series in three states and to keep a coalition of experts on task.
Every single time, we see ourselves as partners – not just vendors or consultants, but actual partners.
Huh? What’s the difference?
For us, being a partner means we’re a seamless extension of another team. We bring value and structure to a process, but we don’t take it over. Our favorite successes are when a client’s clients or colleagues don’t even know we’re part of the process.
So, how do you know when you’ve hired an actual partner – and not just somebody who completes the job?
Enjoy your partnerships!
Gratitude is a value that we practice every single day at Reach Partners. Work -- and life, frankly -- is more enjoyable when we are thankful for all things, big and small.
November is the perfect time to reflect on all we've been grateful for over the past year. Here are just a few of those moments (and there are oh-so-many-more that you can check out on Twitter at #ReachGratitude):
Have you ever taken your car to the shop, knowing that the mechanic needs to order a part before the problem can be fixed?
Consider two scenarios.
Scenario one: You leave your car at the shop on Monday. You don’t get a phone call that day or early the next. Finally, at noon on Tuesday you call the mechanic and find out the part was delayed. It arrived shortly before you called, and it will be another day before the work is done.
Scenario two: You leave your car at the shop on Monday. Your mechanic calls a couple of hours later and explains the part is delayed. It will arrive on Tuesday, and the car will be ready on Wednesday.
The outcomes are identical in both scenarios: you get your car back on Wednesday. Which one would you prefer? Which one treats you with more respect?
It can feel awkward to communicate when there’s no action or forward movement on a project. After all, no news is good news, right?
At Reach Partners, we establish frequent touchpoints with our partners. These real-time conversations happen no matter what happens or doesn’t happen with a project.
Progress made? We communicate.
Problem uncovered? We communicate.
Nothing happened? We communicate.
Most of us pick up the phone or send an email when progress and problems happen. Doing the same when there’s nothing to report is just as critical.
We don’t want our partners to waste energy wondering about the status of a project. We communicate with clarity and integrity, even when the news to share is a big, fat zilch.
This keeps clients from assuming the best or the worst. It assures our clients that their project is important to us. It also makes it easier to connect when we have bad news to share, such as delays or blocks that might affect a project timeline.
After all, nobody wants to get a call only when something isn’t going right.
Think about it in these terms. If you’re selling your house, a weekly conversation with your Realtor makes you feel good. Even if there are weeks that nobody has looked at your home, you feel like things are moving in the right direction. You are confident that your house will sell.
Communicating nonaction will do that.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Adapted from a blog that originally ran in April 2017.
Once the last event attendee has left and the vendors have packed up, go ahead and put your feet up.
Only for a minute or two, though.
The event may be done, but that doesn’t mean the work of an event planner is complete. Every event should include an evaluation or survey that helps you determine whether the event accomplished what you set out to do.
Consider evaluations your reality check. They confirm whether you’ve done what you wanted to do and help improve your next event or program.
After all, we don’t plan events or programs for ourselves or because we’ve always done it. Events fall flat if the participants didn’t learn anything or didn’t enjoy the day. If you’ve done your homework and established a great strategy, you’ll want to know what participants thought.
This can be easier said than done. After all, we want to know everything: What lessons did we learn? Where can we improve? Did we meet participants’ expectations?
The more I research why and how to evaluate, the more I realize how overwhelming it can be. It’s equal parts science and art. To start, as planners we want to evaluate measurable outcomes.
Easy Ways to Ask
One of the easiest ways I’ve found to evaluate an event or program is by using a Net Promotor Score (NPS). Many software and product companies use this method for feedback, but it’s relevant for gathering input from event participants, too.
NPS is a simple one-question, 10-point scale survey with an option for participants to add comments. Essentially, you ask participants how likely they are to recommend your event to friends and colleagues on a scale of 0 to 10. There’s a formula for calculating your overall score, but the higher the number, the more likely your event was a success.
An NPS score won’t be helpful in all situations. If you have specific goals, be sure to ask questions related directly to those. For example, if your goal was to attract women between the ages of 30 and 45, gather demographic information in your survey. If you promised your sponsors that participants would become more involved in your community after attending the program, ask participants whether that is happening.
Some common survey questions:
When and How to Gather
It’s best to get feedback while the activity is fresh for the participant. (Of course, you need to have your survey ready to go before the event takes place. This isn’t the time to procrastinate.) Consider asking attendees to fill out a short survey at intermission or between topic changes during an in-depth seminar. Send a survey by email the morning or evening after a day-long conference.
Evaluations can happen in person, in writing or by email. Interview parents while kids are occupied with an activity. When the event is done, collect a written survey placed in the program. Send a survey a day or two later by email.
Be sure to ask participants, planners, and committee members to respond to your evaluation. Keep in mind that the separate surveys may need to be sent to each of these distinct groups. After all, you may want to gather different information from each of these groups. They all view the event from a different perspective and deserve to be heard.
No, your event isn’t done until your post-event evaluation is. Embrace the feedback and make your next event even better.
Every event I’ve planned and worked relies on an important group of people to get the job done smoothly: volunteers.
They work the registration table, as greeters, as traffic controllers, and more. And keeping them informed and feeling appreciated is one more thing you can do to make sure your event runs smoothly.
I use the term “volunteer” broadly. Even if it’s a corporate event and you’re relying on paid staff to cover your needs, many of them may be serving in unfamiliar roles. For example, your staff graphic designer may be asked to help sponsors set up booths. Your payroll specialist may find herself greeting attendees.
Whether you’re using employees, contracted folks, friends, family, or supporters, you need to clearly communicate your expectations and how their work fits into the day’s goal.
Train Your Volunteers
It sounds counter-intuitive, but too often people expect too little of volunteers. We want them to show up for a period of time and then go on with their lives.
Yet, asking them to invest a bit of time in training is one way you can ensure that everyone working at your event has enough information to do their job well. And, they’ll feel good about the time they spend doing it.
Onsite training is usually easiest. If possible, ask your volunteers to meet a half hour before the event starts. This will give you enough time to communicate expectations, roles, and responsibilities.
If onsite training isn’t possible (and, yes, that’s often the case), connect prior to the event in person or in writing. It’s much easier to tell the entire group important information than to share information in one-on-one settings.
Training doesn’t mean hours of PowerPoint presentations and role-playing. The important thing is you tell people what you want them to do. Do not assume that people know what to do.
Provide an overview or schedule of the event and key messages.
Write a short job description for each role and hand these out. Even a sentence or two of description plus a contact who can be reached in case of an emergency or questions will make your volunteers and staff feel more comfortable and empowered.
Assign Appropriate Roles
Sometimes you need to a body to fill a role.
But when possible, work to find the right person for the role. Even if volunteers aren’t paid, they need to be recruited with skills and strengths in mind.
Not everyone is gifted at being a greeter or a host. You want someone who is friendly, warm, and flashes a willing smile to all attendees. However, someone who knows a lot of the attendees might get pulled into a long conversation with a single person and miss delivering a warm welcome to large groups of people.
If you find a volunteer who can see what needs to be done (without being told) and the confidence to address those needs, hang on to that person. These are exceptional people who deserve recognition and special kudos.
Don’t assume that asking someone to volunteer is a burden. Volunteering with your event is a great way to get someone more interested and involved in your organization or company. And, when done properly, volunteering can make someone feel valued and part of something exciting.
Go ahead and invite people to be an integral part of your success. They can be past volunteers or, in the case of a corporate event, people from a different department.
And, of course, be sure to show them how much you appreciate their time, skills, and effort. Can you offer a free ticket to the event? Or encourage them to take a break and eat?
At the very least, take time to send a thank you. My favorite post-event activity is sending a handwritten note. If that’s not your thing, be sure to send a personalized email, text, or shout-out on social media.
When people feel appreciated, they are more likely to help the next time you call.
Every milestone deserves a good celebration.
For its 20th anniversary, Aldevron wanted to host a party for employees and their families after its annual all-staff meeting.
But the Fargo company’s staff were stretched to meet the daily demands of a quickly growing firm in the biotech field. To throw the fun celebration they imagined without adding pressure on full-time employees, they needed additional support.
Ellen Shafer, senior director of marketing and communications, contacted Reach Partners about two months before the event.
“She needed someone she could trust to handle the details,” says Rachel Asleson, co-owner of Reach Partners.
Staff had already identified the framework for the celebration – an open-house picnic with family-friendly activities. Reach Partners managed the details of the day.
We established the best way to layout the elements and served as a liaison between the event vendors – audio-visual professionals, caterers, entertainers, etc. – and Aldevron staff. We identified vendors, managed the contracts, and confirmed everything was set up as planned. If a contractor had questions or needs on the day of the event, we served as the point of contact.
We also established a process for tracking RSVPs.
While we hovered in the background, the work we did ensured that the day’s activities rolled smoothly. More than 275 people attended.
“Thank you for jumping in on such short notice, working with me and the team, and helping with all details to make a great event,” Ellen wrote to us afterwards. “Your management of the day gave me the peace of mind to take care of what I needed to take care of.”
A year later we received the best compliment of all – a request to help again with the all-employee picnic. This time the celebration coincided with a ground-breaking event for Aldevron’s newest facility in Fargo.
We are always grateful when we can help our partners focus on the daily demands of their work while we take care of the details that make one-time or occasional events run smoothly.
What We Delivered:
Planning an event or activity takes time and coordination. From the moment the brainstorming starts until the last attendee leaves, you need to know what’s going on and keep track of the details.
We believe in – and practice – documentation. Lots of it. We track everything leading up to the event welcome and detail the day of the activity until the last swag bag is grabbed.
Why? If you don’t write it down, you forget. And it becomes even more challenging to make sure a group of staff, volunteers, stakeholders, and others are on the same page.
It’s true. Every event is different. But these documents can help your gathering run smoothly.
By no means, do we consider this list exhaustive. Nor do you need to incorporate each of these tools into every event. Give them a try!
This won’t be a big surprise to many of you, but we love conferences and big events.
Yes, it’s true that we enjoy organizing them. We also enjoy attending them.
After all, you can gather information by watching online videos or reading about the latest industry trends via article or book. However, nothing replaces the face-to-face interactions that happen when people gather for a specific purpose.
When you attend a shared event or conference, you have opportunities to connect with others. You may gather new insight or hear a different perspective. When done right, conferences are energizing. You will walk away with at least a few tips that can make your personal or professional life stronger.
That said, every successful conference requires you to put forth some effort.
Here’s how you can make the most out of your time at a large event or gathering.
Before the Conference or Event
Enjoy your next conference or event!